One of the problems I have in China is that, no matter what I do, I get told I'm doing a good job. This means I have no idea what I'm doing right or wrong.
Let me give an example. I laboured for a few days to try and say "envelope" in Chinese, since I kept having to buy them at the store. Xinfeng. I practiced, I wrote it out phoentically, I chanted it under my breath on the way to classes. Xinfeng. Yes. I could say this.
In every class, I would be asked, "Do you know any Chinese?" "Oh, just one word! Xinfeng." And the kids would stare at me blankly until I pulled the envelope out of my book, and they'd all laugh, and say, "Oh, very good!"
So when I'm told by my headmaster or my co-teachers that I'm good at teaching, I don't know what to think of that. I can't even think, "Oh, I must be okay, because they'd just say nothing if I sucked." They don't do that here, at least not to foreigners. With us, everything is "good". Every country we come from is "beautiful." It makes everything so surreal.
Back home, if someone told me I was doing a good job, I could safely assume I was actually kicking butt and taking names. Most people (and this is not a slam, just a statement of fact) think that, as long as they aren't telling you that you're awful, as long as they keep showing up, they're showing you that they think you're doing a good job. This makes the people who do the work feel like crap most of the time.
In one of his essays, Scarecrow refers to the desire for "commendation pay" whenever an employee would do well. Whenever a customer took the effort to tell the boss that you'd done a good job, you'd get a bonus. When you went above and beyond the call, worked extra shifts because someone called in sick, whatever, you'd get a cash prize of some sort.
It's just strange to me. No matter how often they tell me that I'm doing a good job, it just doesn't mean as much to me as the wooden plaque sitting on top of my computer back home that just says "Thank you". And little blue paradox spirits scattered around my apartment.
I guess a lot of it goes back to the alleged Chinese stereotype that foreigners are quick to anger. I have no way of confirming this except for a few scattered comments from Lily about how nice and understanding I am (again, though, how can I believe this isn't more placating of the foreigner?), and the fact that she expected me to go off the deep end about my internet connection. I just read about this stereotype, so I guess you can say it's a stereotype that all Chinese people think all foreigners are quick to anger. *smile*
The other thing I've been told in no uncertain terms is that it's a big deal to have a foreign teacher at a school, and it makes more students come to the school. (Is it that the students want to come, or that the parents want their children to have that special "forienger" stamp to their English?) Paul was told by one of his friends in Rudong that they'd be just as happy if they could have a statue of him out front, really. They don't care if he can teach or what he does, just that he's there. Here, I was told after being taken to a small country school, "Now that the students know you're at Li Cei, they'll want to come to our school next year!"
Factor in to all of this that my school is looking for two foreign teachers for the summer, and I think I might go crazy trying to figure out if I'm a good teacher, or just a good Western Face.